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Therefore, never speak evil of any upon common fame, which for the most part is false, but almost always uncertain.
2. Before you speak evil of another, consider whether he hath not obliged you by some real kindness, and then it is a bad return to speak ill of him who hath done you good. Consider, also, whether you may not come hereafter to be acquainted with him, related to him, or in want of his favor whom you have thus injured? And whether it may not be in his power to revenge a spiteful and needless word by a shrewd turn? So that if a man made no conscience of hurting others, yet he should in prudence have some consideration for himself.
3. Let us accustom ourselves to be truly sorry for the faults of men, and then we shall take no pleasure in publishing them. Common humanity requires this of us, considering the great infirmities of our nature, and that we also are liable to be tempted; considering, likewise, how severe a punishment every crime is to itself, and how terribly it exposeth a man to the wrath of God. He is not a good Christian that is not sorry for the faults of his greatest enemies; and if he be so, he will discover them no farther than is necessary to some good end.
4. Whenever we hear any man evil spoken of, if we have heard any good of him, let us say that.
It is always more humane, and more honorable, to vindicate others, than to accuse them. Possibly, the good you have heard of them may not be true, but it is much more probable that the evil is not; however, it is better to preserve the credit of the bad, than to stain the reputation of the innocent. Were it necessary that a man should be evil spoken of, his good and bad qualities should be mentioned together, otherwise he may be strangely misrepresented, and an indifferent man may be made a monster.
They that will observe nothing in a wise man, but his oversights and follies; nothing in a good, but his failings and infirmities, may render both despicable. Should we heap together all the passionate speeches, all the imprudent actions, of the best man, and present them all at one view, concealing his wisdom and virtues; he, in this disguise, would look like a madman or a fury. And yet, if his life were fairly represented in the manner it was led, he would appear to all the world to be an admirable and excellent person. But how numerous soever any man's ill qualities are, it is just that he should have the due praise of his few real virtues.
5. That you may not speak ill, do not delight to hear it of any. Give no countenance to busy bodies; if you cannot decently reprove them because of this quality, divert the discourse some
other way; or, by seeming not to mind it, signify that you do not like it.
6. Let every man mind his own duty and concern. Do but endeavour in good earnest to mend thyself, and it will be work enough, and leave thee little time to talk of others.
Lastly, let us set a watch before the door of our lips, and not speak but upon consideration; I do not mean to speak finely, but fitly. Especially when thou speakest of others, consider of whom, and what, thou art going to speak; use great caution and circumspection in this matter; look well about thee, on every side of the thing, and on every person in the company, before thy words slip from thee; which, when they are once out of thy lips, are for ever out of thy power. The sin of evil speaking is plainly condemned by the word of God; and the duty of refraining from it as easy, as a resolute silence upon just occasion; as reasonable, as prudence, justice, charity, and the preservation of peace and good will among men can make it; and of as necessary and indispensable an obligation, as the authority of God can render any thing.
Upon which considerations, let David's deliberate resolution be ours; 'I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not with my tongue.' And I verily believe, that should we but heartily endeavour to amend this one fault, we should soon
be better men in our whole lives; I mean, that the correcting of this vice, together with those that are nearly allied to it, would make us owners of a great many virtues, and carry us on a good way towards perfection; it being hardly to be imagined, that a man who makes conscience of his words should not take an equal or a greater care of his actions. And this I take to be both the true meaning, and the true reason of the saying of St James, with which I shall conclude; 'If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.'
ADVANTAGES OF AN EARLY PIETY.
1. We have the greatest and most sensible obligations to remember our Creator in the days of our youth; in that age, when the blessing of life is new, and the memory of it fresh upon our minds; when our health is in its strength and vigor, and the pleasures and enjoyments of life have their full taste and relish. So Job describes hthe days of his youth; 'Oh! that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness, as I was in the days of my youth, &c.'
"Thou art inexcusable, O man, whoever thou
art,' if thou art unmindful of God in the best age of thy life, and when the sense of his benefits ought, upon all accounts, to make the strongest and deepest impressions upon thy mind.
2. The reason will be yet stronger to put us upon this, if we consider, that, notwithstanding the great obligation which lies upon us to remember our Creator in the days of our youth, we are most apt at that time to forget him.
Youth is extremely addicted to pleasure, because it is most capable and most sensible of it; and where we are most apt to be transported, there are we most apt to transgress. Nor doth any thing so beset the mind, and extinguish in it all sense of divine things, as sensual pleasures. If we fall in love with them, they will take off our thoughts from religion, and steal away our hearts from God. For no man can serve two masters; and the carnal mind is enmity against God.
Besides, youth is rash and inconsiderate, because inexperienced; and consequently not apt to be cautious and prudent, no, not as to the concerns of this temporal life, much less of that which seems to be at so much a greater distance, and for that reason is so very seldom in our thoughts.
3. This age is fittest to begin a religious course of life. And this does not contradict the former